Academic journal article The Journal of Business Forecasting Methods & Systems

Engaging the Sales Organization for a Better Forecast

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Forecasting Methods & Systems

Engaging the Sales Organization for a Better Forecast

Article excerpt

Engaging the Sales organization in the forecasting process is the key to success ... outlines steps for engaging the Sales organization to the forecasting process ... the relationship between the forecaster and sales organization will be strengthened, if salespeople fully understand the value of forecasts.

A newly formed forecasting group often faces many challenges, but none as critical as gaining the participation and cooperation of the sales organization. The Sales organization, the group closest to the customers, is a primary source of invaluable market intelligence that directly and indirectly influences the forecasts being developed. The question is: how should the sales organization become engaged? Once the Sales group's commitment is obtained, the commitment can grow when both groups recognize and embrace a common goal, close ties are cultivated with field sales, and information flows efficiently. This article provides practical, field-proven suggestions for starting a successful forecasting partnership with Sales.

COMMITMENT FROM THE TOP

Unequivocally, the success of a Forecasting group is directly linked to the Sales organization. Without its support, the Forecasting group will find itself constrained by its inability to gather reliable, timely data necessary for making good projections. The task of building a fruitful relationship with the Sales organization can range from being relatively easy to very challenging. The level of ease depends in part on where the forecasting function resides within the overall corporate structure.

Since the forecasting function is normally focused on forecasting sales, many organizations choose to put their Forecasting group within the Sales organization. Such a structure can provide the Forecasting group with direct access to sales resources and the necessary support to pursue other, and more advanced collaborative efforts down the road.

Other organizations prefer to have the Forecasting group within Operations. This structure allows the group to maintain what is often perceived to be "a more independent approach" to interact with Sales and gain a greater awareness of supply chain issues impacting the organization. Alternative structures place the Forecasting group within Marketing or as a completely autonomous function. Being on the outside, the Forecasting group may experience a more difficult time obtaining the commitment and cooperation of the Sales organization deemed necessary for generating reliable forecasts. The merits of establishing one organizational structure over another will not be discussed here. Nonetheless, there are clearly some obvious advantages to the Forecasting group if it is placed within the Sales organization.

Forecasting groups are most successful in engaging the Sales organization, if the forecasting process has been elevated to a priority status by its leadership. Leaders are in the best position and possess the necessary clout to communicate the required process throughout their organization, and rally field sales to become active participants. Therefore, one of the priorities for the Forecasting group should be to approach the Sales organization leadership with a well-defined plan to win their support.

During the initial discussions with the Sales leadership, it is important to present a compelling vision of the common benefits to be gained from a partnership between the two groups. A clear description of the Forecasting group's structure, role, expertise, and expectations from the Sales organization must be articulated. The message properly articulated will ultimately convince the Sales leadership that by partnering with the Forecasting group, it can expect to achieve the following:

1. Improve customer service levels, thus fostering continuing and enhanced sales results.

2. Strengthen relationships with customers, which will bolster immediate sales potential and defend against inroads from likely competitors. …

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